‘We were exactly 6 months from the wedding when she broke the news. They had found a lump in her breast. My mind went blank.’

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This incredibly touching and raw moment between a groom and his mother, who was recently diagnosed with an aggressive Stage 4 Breast Cancer, will bring you to tears. The mother and son share their beautiful story behind these photos with Love What Matters.

Matt Berger, the groom:

“At 21, I was immature, irresponsible, and living paycheck to paycheck. I couldn’t picture being married or having a family of my own. I wasn’t religious and divorce was fairly prevalent in my family, so marriage became somewhat of a joke to me. Tessa changed all of that.

I found myself wanting to become a better person; more responsible, more reliable, and more mature. I had finally found someone I could see myself marrying. She was beautiful, smart, made me laugh, and she looked past many of my faults. We moved in together soon after we started dating and began our new lives together. Unfortunately, moving away from my hometown also meant moving away from my mother, with whom I was very close.

Trisha Ann Photography, LLC

She likes to tell people how we grew up together. She was 17 when I was born, hardly more than a kid herself. She made mistakes, as we all do. But I have never felt, nor could I ever feel, that she’s been a bad mother. Going through what we have together gave us a special bond I never fully appreciated until recently.

Courtesy of Matt Berger
Courtesy of Matt Berger

After I moved, I tried to get back to visit often. Unfortunately, as time went by, my visits became fewer. In 2014, Tessa and I welcomed our daughter, Ellisyn, to the world. I had recently started a new job, was living with the love of my life, and now I was a father. Time had a way of slipping by without us realizing it, and I was having trouble balancing work, the family I had started, and the family I had somehow let get pushed aside.

Fast forward a couple years and things seemed to be falling back into place. I had completed some schooling, Tessa and I had moved from our small apartment into a house, our daughter was smarter and more beautiful than I could have ever dreamed, and slowly we were able to find more and more time for our families. By the time Christmas came around in 2016, the day I proposed, everything seemed perfect.

Trisha Ann Photography, LLC

My mother visited regularly and frequently had Ellie over for sleepovers. I could see how much joy being a grandmother brought her. The bond I had with my mother that I took for granted, and subsequently let slip away, was coming back along with me having a new respect for what she had done for me.

My mother was as excited for the impending wedding as Tessa and I were. We were exactly six months away from our wedding date when she broke the news.

I was watching the Super Bowl with my daughter, father-in-law, and some friends. Ellie was so excited to wear the new jersey her Grandma Shannon had bought her, that I had to send a picture.

Courtesy of Matt Berger

We texted back and forth during the game and eventually she told me they had found a lump in her breast and she would be going in for more tests.

My mind went blank. It took me several moments to even text her back. She was optimistic about it, but it didn’t do much to dissuade my fears. We ended our conversation that night saying how much we loved each other and were hoping for the best, but the fear never went away. It was several days before I could even bring myself to tell Tessa, and by then, it was time for the tests.

Trisha Ann Photography, LLC

Needless to say, it was a stressful and scary situation, compounded by the later revelation that it was cancer, and had spread. She was originally diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer. The prognosis was all positive, but the fear never went away. To be honest, I was ill-prepared to handle a situation like this. Her boyfriend Clyde, who was by her side throughout most of her appointments, helped explain what the diagnosis meant, but through all the terminology, all I could really process was ‘cancer’ and I was scared. Both of my parents being so young, I naively assumed we had loads of time before having to address anything like this.

I honestly didn’t handle it as well as I could have. As I often do with personal and emotional situations, I avoided talking about it. Sure, we discussed it on occasion, but overall, I went through the rest of this summer as if everything was fine. I couldn’t bring myself to accept there was a chance the treatments wouldn’t work.

Trisha Ann Photography, LLC

The wedding turned out perfectly. My mother’s treatments were finished, the results of her post-treatment scans were due the following Monday, and the whole day went exactly as planned with my mother in attendance. It had already been an emotional day so while taking some pictures with my mother after dinner, everything seemed to hit me at once. Knowing, but not truly understanding as only someone who goes through it can, what she went through to get to that point, and the fear of what her results would show, I broke down.

Trisha Ann Photography, LLC

Here I was, married to the woman I will spend the rest of my life with, surrounded by truly amazing people, and I worried about how much more of this new life my mother would be able to see. The fact she was able to be there, and in such good spirits, was overwhelming to me. It showed what a remarkable woman she is.

Trisha Ann Photography, LLC

I couldn’t picture her not being there for such an amazing day, and I realized how lucky we were that she was. Everyone has things they take for granted but that day, and all the days we can look forward to enjoying together, are things I know I could have lost.

Trisha Ann Photography, LLC

Ordinarily, I’m a very private person. Moments like the one Trisha and Melody were able to capture are rare, and the fact they were able to do so, while they themselves were so overcome with emotion, is something I’ll always be thankful for.

Trisha Ann Photography, LLC

We’re not out of the woods yet, but the post-treatment scans came back with good news across the board. With any luck, my mother will be there to experience many more important moments in our lives. Either way, moments like these are ones that I will cherish forever.”

Trisha Ann Photography, LLC

Shannon Kimmet, his mother:

“I’m not sure anybody can really be prepared for the words, ‘It’s cancer.’ Although I knew it was a possibility after finding a lump and having a mammogram/ultrasound which led to a biopsy. As I sat in the consultation room with my sister and my best friend as they delivered the news that my biopsy tested positive for cancer, all I kept thinking was, ‘This really wasn’t happening to me.’ I was healthy. I didn’t feel sick. The room that had just been filled with small talk and laughter had grown very silent for what seemed like an eternity. Then came the questions. Will I have chemo? Will I have surgery? Not to mention, was I going to die? All questions that would be answered with further testing as they scanned every part of my body. Unfortunately, those tests didn’t bring us any better news. The cancer had spread to the lymph nodes of my arm and neck and also to my breast bone, giving me a diagnosis of Stage 4 breast cancer. The cancer was aggressive and spreading quickly. Chemotherapy needed to start immediately.

Trisha Ann Photography, LLC

My mind was moving in a million different directions. My children, Matthew, Savannah and Connor.  How was I going to tell my children? Although I had mentioned it to them that I was having some tests run, I had never let on to the severity of it all, hoping that all the tests came back clear and I wouldn’t have to tell them anything. I told Matthew first as he was the oldest. As I choked out the diagnosis to him over the phone I hoped I was able to mask how scared I really was for what I was about to face. I assured him the doctors had a plan for me and I was going to fight this and be fine. That night as I sat my two youngest down to tell them, Savannah, 16, and Connor, 11, I realized this was going to be more difficult than I thought. How do you tell your children, who depend on you to take care of them, that you’re sick? And then try to answer questions you don’t even know answers to? Tears were shed and hugs were given and I again assured them I was going to be fine and that I love them very much.

Trisha Ann Photography, LLC

Unfortunately life does not stop for cancer, so we all progressed as normally as possible. I started chemo and for the most part it went very well. I was hardly sick and I was able to work almost the entire time.  The timing couldn’t have been more perfect — my last chemo was about 3 weeks before Matt and Tessa’s wedding. I had all the scans the week prior and had asked the doctor to hold off on the results until after the wedding as I wanted nothing to upset that day. After all, my son was getting ready to marry the love of his life. Matthew and Tessa complement each other so well. One completes the other. When you put my beautiful granddaughter Ellisyn Rose in the mix, you see a puzzle perfectly put together.

Trisha Ann Photography, LLC

As I sat there waiting for the ceremony to begin I looked at Matt as he awaited his soon to be bride’s arrival. All I could think was, ‘Wow,’ what an amazing man that stood in front of me. The pride I felt at that moment is one I will never forget. I often feel like I made mistakes as a parent, wonder if I could have done a better job. But at that moment I realized what a wonderful young man I raised. Absolutely no regrets. Matthew turned out perfect. The love that he shows Tessa and Ellie is a reflection of the love I have given to him. He is a great father and I know he will be an amazing husband to his new bride.

Trisha Ann Photography, LLC

Later that evening, the photographers Trisha and Melody took Matt and I out to take a few pictures of just the two of us. Of course Matt and I were laughing and being silly like we always do, but as they began to snap the pictures, I was overwhelmed with emotion. I squeezed Matt, put my head on his shoulder and told him I loved him. ‘I love you too, Mom,’ he said.

Trisha Ann Photography, LLC

Matthew was starting to cry. Before I knew it, we were both sobbing, clinging to each other, all the while trying to gain our composure for the pictures. It is a moment I will never forget.”

Trisha Ann Photography, LLC
Trisha Ann Photography, LLC
Trisha Ann Photography, LLC

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Matt Berger and his mother, Shannon Kimmet, of Columbus Grove, Ohio. Do you have a beautiful wedding moment to share? We’d love to hear from you. Submit your story here, and subscribe to our best stories in our free newsletter here.

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